>   Some people say there isn't anything to do in Madras. Tell that to last Saturday. People had to pick and choose at what excellent event they'd hang out.
   The Cowdeo rocked the fairgrounds for over four hours, from the afternoon into the evening; the Buff Boosters had a huge steak and crab auction event at the rod and gun club; and the chamber held its annual banquet at the beautiful Inn at Cross Keys Station.
   On any other day, I would have loved to have taken in the booster event, and it's great to hear how successful it was. But instead of jeans and a sweatshirt, I joined the crowd in banquet garb at the annual chamber banquet. While I like to back the Buffs, I figured the Madras area business community is in more dire need of fan support.
   The Inn at Cross Keys Station hosted this year's event, and it's an outstanding venue, beautiful inside and out.
   The highlight of the annual chamber banquet, or course, is the presentation of the chamber's community awards.
   Charitie Gamble was named volunteer of the year. I'm on the Kids Club board with Charitie and she definitely brings a lot of energy, passion and dedication to her service. And Jimmy Adkins as the public servant of the year -- is there ever anyone as popular in a community as a popular sheriff? I don't think so, and Mr. Adkins deserves all the praise and backing he receives -- surely a hometown son who had done us proud.
   Two recipients weren't there: business of the year Gary Gruner Chevrolet and senior of the year Dorothy Burgess. Hopefully their ears tickled from afar with all the kind words thrown their way in their absence.
   The very affable Mack Gardner was honored with the community champion award -- an excellent choice.
   Mack provides a positive, energetic, thoughtful brand of leadership. He played a key lead role in the effort to pass the 509-J $26.7 million bond levy last spring. His job with them alone was more than enough to earn the community champion award.
   Gardner came to Madras after a 19-year military career to run the high school's JROTC program back in '94. I had just started my time with the Pioneer in '93, and I recall those early days of Mack's tenure. The program quickly carved a high profile within the community, inside and outside the school's walls, appearing everywhere to carry the colors. The program swelled in numbers, drawing many kids who didn't necessarily participate in anything else.
   A lot of times, towns are just lucky about who might drop in to take a job towards the end of their careers. Most of those folks collect their paychecks, then get out of town upon retirement. If they stay in town, they often disappear into their sofas. We got lucky with Mack Gardner.
   Even after leaving the school district, Gardner stayed busy, working key positions on social, education, health and community event boards and programs.
   Congrats to all the chamber's honorees -- a very well-deserving class of 2012.
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